Showing posts with label Mark K. Roberts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mark K. Roberts. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Penetrator #03 - Capitol Hell

We've covered the first two Penetrator novels, authored by Mark K. Roberts (odd numbered installments) and Chet Cunningham (even numbered installments) using the pseudonym Lionel Derrick. This was a long-running men's action-adventure series published by Pinnacle in the style of The Executioner and The Butcher (among others). Mostly, this is just fun escapism that's completely disposable. The series is available in audio book format through Books in Motion, narrated by Gene Engene or Kevin Foley, which is typically how I enjoy this series, and in digital by Wolfpack.

In the series third novel, Capitol Hell, Mark Hardin (The Penetrator) witnesses a car crash involving a Mob goon. The criminal's dying breath whispers the word “SIE”, which leads Hardin to a special Washington D.C. club called Societe International d'Elite. This reminded me of Ian Fleming's Moonraker, when James Bond is invited to join the posh club at Blades in London. Hardin not only wants to learn more about the club and its relation to the dead mobster, but also who assassinated the press secretary to the President of the U.S., which just so happened to be Hardin's buddy. 

There's an oddball cast of club members that have established a secret club within the club. They dress in robes, partake in weird chants, and have obligatory plans to take over the world. This club nonchalantly provides hypnotic drugs to the VP and have a strategy to blow-up Airforce One, which is utterly ridiculous. Also, once the club takes control of the U.S. (and I guess the Speaker of the House, Senate leader, and Secretary of State) they will force more military chaos in Latin America to increase their profits.

For the most part, Capitol Hell is a fun ride filled with outrageous moments of unintentional hilarity and wild action-adventure. Hardin is nearly indestructible, gets laid by two women, and fights this clandestine cult-club on a golf course and in old Williamsburg, Virginia. His tools of the trade are his trusty Colt Commander .45 and a dart gun (1 dart for sleepy, 2 for death!). These books tend to connect to each other in small ways, and Capitol Hell connects to the last two events in Los Angeles and Vegas. It isn't necessary to read them in order I suppose, but why not? If you are taking the trouble to track down the series, buy them in sequential order. 

Get the eBook HERE.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Penetrator #01 - The Target Is H

Powerhouse publisher Pinnacle capitalized on its own success with 'The Executioner' with a wildly successful, over-the-top vigilante series entitled 'The Penetrator'. Beginning in 1973, the series launched with “The Target Is H”, the first of 53 installments published under the house name of Lionel Derrick. However, the series was masterminded by journeyman author Chet Cunningham ('Avenger', 'Pony Soldiers'), who wrote the even numbered volumes. The odd numbers were penned by Mark K. Roberts ('Soldier for Hire', 'Liberty Corps.'). I decided to check out where it all began - Penetrator #1: “The Target is H”.

The novel introduces series protagonist Mark Hardin and the events that led to his war on organized crime. Hardin excelled in sports, eventually lettering in wrestling, basketball and football in high school. On the cusp of a lucrative NFL contract, Hardin refuses to cooperate with gambling junkies during his last collegiate game and experiences a horrific back injury that ends his athletic ambitions (there's more to the story but I'm no spoiler). Hardin then joins the U.S. Army and finds that he is a remarkable soldier. After numerous medals, Hardin's military career ends with an exceptional record and an honorary discharge.

While hoping to find the gambling junkies that ended his sports career, Hardin and his girlfriend Donna Morgan run into a heroin distribution ring in Los Angeles. Too close to the fire, Donna is murdered and Hardin finds himself aligned with her uncle, Professor Hawkins, and a talented Native American named Red Eagle. As a trio, they launch a crime-fighting crusade from a desert fortress called The Stronghold.

This series debut consists of a number of guerrilla firefights between Hardin and a mob family led by Don Pietro Scarelli. Mark Roberts writes like Don Pendleton's clone, firing off an admirable Mack Bolan knockoff in Mark Hardin. Despite the book's cover (and most of the series for that matter), Hardin isn't some suit-wearing spy that's chasing brutes and babes. In fact, I was surprised that Hardin is mostly concealed in black fatigues without any bodacious beauties. It's all action, from car chases on windswept, desert roads to infiltrating the mob in a slick ambush. Roberts presents three distinct firefights that were above average for a 1970s vigilante paperback...and that's saying something.

Overall, “The Target Is H” was a stellar first entry in what would amount to be a tremendously successful run of men's pulpy action-adventure novels. This one is a must read and thankfully Chet Cunningham's estate have made the first 26 installments available as affordable ebooks.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

White Squaw #02 - Boomtown Bust

Of all the series released during the golden age of action/adventure paperbacks, 'White Squaw' is one of the most sordid. It's written by Mark K. Roberts as house name E.J. Hunter. The premise is that a young woman roams the Old West on a mission of vengeance against the outlaw gang that had traded her to the Sioux as a teen. There she was treated as a slave before being assigned to a disgusting and sexually demanding old man as his bride. 

That’s just for starters. Plenty of unsavory things happen in the debut novel, “Sioux Wildfire”, but the follow-up is simply jaw-dropping. In “Boomtown Bust”, that outlaw gang takes over a Colorado town, subduing the locals with a great deal of brutality. Our heroine, Rebecca, rides in and kills several of the owlhoots before she’s captured and forced into prostitution and opium addiction in the local brothel. She’s also raped by the sadistic whip-wielding lesbian madam, who forces herself upon a 12-year-old girl as well.

Ultimately, of course, Rebecca escapes and brings about some six-gun justice with the help of the outraged citizenry. Not all of the guilty will pay for what they’ve done, but with a couple dozen novels in this series, there will be plenty of time for that later. The most interesting of the outlaws (a 300-pound degenerate toilet seat-sniffing child molester carried over from the first book) does get his due, in an excellent confrontation scene. 

There’s nothing wrong with pulp fiction being lurid, but there’s a difference between stuff that’s loopy and exciting, versus stuff that’s just cruel and depressing. We mostly get the latter in “Boomtown Bust”, including a description of a child being raped and murdered which runs for a full page, dropped inexplicably into the middle of the novel’s action climax. 

Frequent sex scenes (of the consenting adults variety) are a counterpoint to all this. The younger the reader, the more titillating these will be, I guess. But they’re not very steamy, and they’re loaded with purple prose euphemisms that are more amusing than arousing: a “long, thick pole of flesh,” Rebecca’s “warm cave of pungent nectar,” a “surging love dagger,” her “burning cavern,” etc.

No, it isn’t exactly Zane Grey. You know from glancing at any of the covers that the 'White Squaw' books are lightweight and trashy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just prefer my lurid trash to be fun, with dramatic tension, suspense and memorable characters. I didn’t really get that from “Boomtown Bust”, but I did keep turning those pages.